Paula White’s One Voice Prayer Movement: A Thinly Disguised Political Operation for Trump

Paula White, spiritual adviser to President Donald Trump, speaks at White House National Day of Prayer observance, May 7, 2020.

The One Voice Prayer Movement operates as a political and public relations vehicle for President Donald Trump in the guise of a nonpartisan “cooperative prayer effort.” OVPM was launched in November 2019 by Paula White, who simultaneously serves as Trump’s unofficial spiritual adviser, an official member of the White House staff, and a campaign spokesperson. Like White herself, OVPM blurs and straddles lines between public, private, and political interests. And, like White, OVPM deploys Christian nationalist rhetoric that undermines American principles of respectful religious pluralism and church-state separation.

White and Trump have maintained a mutually beneficial relationship for years. She has served as a liaison between Trump and conservative Christian leaders since before his election. In her book “Something Greater: Finding Triumph Over Trials,” White wrote that her relationship with Trump was a “spiritual assignment” from God.

In her unofficial role, White has kept a steady stream of evangelical leaders coming to the White House for mutual ego-stroking with Trump. When White was given an official position late last year, she was classified as a part-time “special government employee,” allowing her to continue to run her ministries, which promise spiritual blessings to people who send her money. White is a fixture at Trump campaign events, where she has portrayed his opponents as demonic.

The Purpose of One Voice Prayer Movement

OVPM’s stated goal is “to unite the Body of Christ to pray for God’s values to be expressed through government and the nation.” At the time of OVPM’s launch, the Christian Broadcasting Network described it as an initiative “launched to fight against spells, sorcery and those who would employ witchcraft against the President and as an effort to address the current prayer needs for the White House.”

OVPM’s focus on Trump’s reelection was made clear by James Goll, who promotes the New Apostolic Reformation and Seven Mountains Dominionism, related movements that seek to transform nations by bringing governments and other sectors of cultural influence under the control of leaders who share their worldview. At OVPM’s inception, Goll said that he had prophesied the emergence of “the greatest governmental prayer movement in the history of the United States” and noted that OVPM’s launch date, Nov. 5, 2019, was one year before the 2020 election.

“The stakes have never been higher,” he wrote. “Either we choose to complete the turnaround the Lord has granted us, shifting our nation toward constitutional governance incorporating clear biblical values, or we see the momentous gains made during the past three years simply depleted.”

Indeed, OVPM appears to be designed as a vehicle for maintaining a close connection between team Trump and the Pentecostal leaders and activists who believe that Trump was placed in office with a divine anointing—and for mobilizing them on behalf of his reelection.

In addition to Goll, among the Trump boosters who helped White launch OVPM last November were dominionist “prophets” Dutch Sheets, Cindy Jacobs, and Jon and Jolene Hamill. The Hamills’ Lamplighter Ministries—whose motto is “pursuing the restoration of God’s governmental glory!”—has the distinction of having been deemed unfit for the Museum of the Bible, which regularly hosts all manner of religious-right events.

Also at OVPM’s core is Intercessors for America leader Dave Kubal. IFA is another group of prayer warriors that zealously support the president and other conservative politicians. In 2018, IFA promoted a prayer that Trump would “rule” in the midst of his enemies, which it said “is the same decree that King David prophesied in his own nation concerning the coming Messiah.” As Right Wing Watch has reported, OVPM’s website domain is registered to IFA. OVPM’s prayer calls, including its National Day of Prayer webcast, follow the model of IFA’s monthly prayer calls in which speaker presentations and prayers are interspersed with moments in which listener lines are unmuted for a cacophony of prayer.

Scholar Cynthia Burack, who has studied the use of prayer as a political tactic, told Right Wing Watch that projects like OVPM “have proliferated in recent years on the Christian conservative right as moral entrepreneurs like Paula White have realized their value for political socialization and mobilization.”

The activities of OVPM and IFA and the proliferation of online prayer calls from other religious-right groups seem to affirm an “underlying continuity” that Burack identifies across prayer projects, some of which may “appear superficially to be less partisan than others.” Burack said that the most important cause of the moment for conservative Christians is “assuring Donald Trump’s reelection and the defeat of his critics.”

National Day of Prayer and Religious Right Claims of U.S. National ‘Covenant’ to Promote Christianity

On the National Day of Prayer, which federal law places on the first Thursday of May, White appeared with Trump at the White House’s afternoon observance. While the Rose Garden event featured speakers of varying faiths, White’s remarks were not very interfaith in spirit: “For your word declares in Psalm 33:2, ‘Blessed is the nation whose God is Lord,’” she said. “I declare to you right now to be Lord over this nation, over the United States of America.”

Just a few hours before the White House event, “Pastor Paula” kicked off a two-hour One Voice Prayer Movement webcast emceed by her self-described “right hand in Washington” Todd Lamphere. The OVPM webcast featured Christian nationalist rhetoric and an array of dominionist speakers, many of whom launched OVPM with White in November.

On the National Day of Prayer webcast, White thanked God for Trump and asked that “wicked” leaders be removed from government positions. She asked for divine intervention against COVID-19, saying, “We command this coronavirus to be done, to be gone. … We say it is enough! Die now, coronavirus 19! We command right now that this virus stop. There will be no more spread, in the name of Jesus.”

For the rest of the webcast, Lamphere invited speakers to lead prayers, some of them while stationed in front of the White House, U.S. Capitol, and Supreme Court. Several of the speakers talked about the U.S. having a national covenant with God to promote the gospel of Jesus Christ, a position staked out by Christian nationalist political operative David Lane.

According to this view of history, the national covenant between the God and the U.S. dates not to our national founding with the Declaration of Independence or U.S. Constitution, but to the earliest English colonizers, including the signers of the Mayflower Compact in 1620 and even before that to Robert Hunt’s declaration in Cape Henry in 1607 that the gospel would go forth from this land to all the nations on Earth.

Christian nationalists say this covenant is still in force, even if Americans have violated or abandoned it. A couple speakers on the OVPM webcast used this interpretation to give a Christian nationalist spin to the phrase “original intent,” which usually refers to a question of how to legally interpret the Constitution, but which they used to suggest the alleged “original intent” of the settlers and Founding Fathers—and God himself—to create a Christian nation.

“We are a Christian nation founded on Christian principles,” declared “apostle” Dutch Sheets on the OVPM webcast.

Another speaker, Chris Mitchell of the “apostolic ministry” King’s Gate International, prayed from in front of the U.S. Capitol, saying the U.S. has a covenant with God to be “a purveyor of the gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the Earth.” Mitchell continued:

And we say today, Lord, that that covenant is not forgotten by you. And therefore, the thrones of governance in this nation, including every seat in the Senate and in the House of Representatives, Lord, they belong to you by right of covenant. So, we declare today that they will align to your righteous cause, and they will be restored to original intent in Jesus’ matchless name … We know, Lord God, that the government is upon your shoulders, and Jesus, today we declare that over the United States of America and from the shadow of the Capitol, there is no king but Jesus and no sovereign but God. So, let every seat be aligned to your purpose and be restored to your original intention.

Rebecca Greenwood of Christian Harvest International, which is “committed to the mandate of discipling nations,” also described the Mayflower Compact as a covenant with the U.S.:

So, Lord, I thank you that we are in the 400th year anniversary of the Mayflower Compact, Lord, that covenant agreement that was made in unity in 1620 on our land, that they would honor you, God, and they would spread Christianity throughout the nations of the world. So, Lord, we remind you of this covenant from 400 years ago with that Mayflower Compact, and Lord, right now we come and we humble ourselves. And Lord, we say any and all ways that we have not honored that righteous covenant with you as a nation, and as a people, Lord, we ask that you forgive us. And Lord, we turn from those ways, those evil ways, and Lord, we seek your face. Lord, may we across this nation today and leading into Pentecost have encounters with you as we seek your face, that we will be transformed from glory to glory, and that your healing will come to this land.

Praying from outside the U.S. Supreme Court, Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation National Director of Prayer and Mobilization Summer Ingram asked God to break through any obstacles to Trump’s pending judicial nominations and prayed for Supreme Court justices to have a fear of the Lord. “We pray that every opinion, Lord, would honor and acknowledge your law and your will, according to what you originally intended for this nation,” she said. “We pray that every opinion that contradicts your will or your way would be overturned or reversed in the days ahead.”

Former Rep. Randy Forbes, who founded the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation, also appeared on the webcast, where he celebrated that the “precedents for religious freedom” that are being set during the pandemic—specifically the unprecedented use of federal tax dollars to directly fund clergy and churches—“are going to endure long after this coronavirus has gone.”

Spiritual Warfare and Trump’s Divine Mandate

Trump’s divine purpose was also the focus of some prayers during the National Day of Prayer webcast. Jon Hamill spoke from in front of the White House, where he thanked God for giving Trump “prophetic insight” and for having “given him and graced him with a fathering anointing to bring us all together as one.”

Mario Bramnick of the Latino Coalition for Israel described Trump as God’s anointed, for spiritual as well as political purposes. “We are so grateful that President Trump is our Cyrus for this hour, that you have anointed him to protect our nation Father, you have given him the wisdom to restore our nation and to turn our nation back to you,” Bramnick prayed.

Bramnick said God is “giving our president even a broader Cyrus mantle to effectuate turnaround for economics of nations” and claimed that more nations will begin to align with the U.S. and Israel. “Father, I know that our battle is not against flesh and blood but against powers and principalities,” he said. “We come against every spirit of Antichrist, every globalist spirit, Father, every spirit, Father, that would seek the destruction of our nation.”

Spiritual warfare was a common theme on the OVPM webcast. “I’m warring for the destiny of America,” Sheets said, warning that Satan and evil spiritual forces wanted to strip Americans’ divine destiny from them. “We were to be a light, Lord, we were to export not pornography but the gospel. We were to be the leading voice of the exporting of the gospel of Jesus to the ends of the Earth,” Sheets said, adding that “there’s been an amazing, incredible attempt to steal that.” But God has “raised up an army of intercessors and a movement in this nation to war for that destiny,” Sheets said. “And you put a man even in the White House who is very sympathetic to that.”

Paula White also talks about politics and Trump’s election as spiritual warfare and describes his political opponents as aligned with demonic forces. On a May 11 livestream, White used the rhetoric of Seven Mountains Dominionism, which calls for the “mountains” or “spheres of influence” in society to be brought under the control of a certain kind of Christian. White told viewers that politics and the media are two of the seven mountains. But, she said, “the only legal entity that can bring forth change is the church, blood-bought believers of Jesus Christ.” By “legal entity” White was referring to the belief among some in the “apostolic” movement that Christians can bring about changes on Earth by appealing to “the courts of Heaven.”

White said those believers “should be infiltrating entertainment and media, and politics and education, and religion, and all these different aspects of society, because the world won’t change and the kingdoms of this world will not become the kingdoms of our God until those who carry the kingdom of God within you—because a kingdom is not natural land. It’s not space. The kingdom of God is joy and peace and righteousness in the Holy Spirit.”

“So, when I step in a place, when you step in a place, you carry all of Heaven’s authority and Earth’s authority that has been willed to you by the finished work of Jesus Christ,” she added.

One Voice Prayer Movement as Political and Public Relations Arm of White House

OVPM’s National Day of Prayer webcast was a supercharged version of the monthly prayer calls it sponsors. On the group’s first prayer call last year, White prayed against “demonic” efforts to undermine Trump and said that anyone “aligned against the president will be exposed and dealt with and overturned by the superior blood of Jesus.” On April’s call, she asked God for a great revival “that starts in the highest office in the land,” noting that the president is watching religious services every Sunday.

White has been mobilizing religious-right leaders to defend Trump from criticism of his administration’s fatal missteps in responding to the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. She has broadcast streaming daily prayer sessions on social media to heap praise on Trump for his handling of the crisis.

OVPM also distributes “prayer points” that come from White and her White House office via emailed “prayer alerts” and monthly prayer calls. The prayer alerts read like White House press releases with a line tacked on urging people to keep praying for Trump, other administration officials, and the nation. Here’s a sampling of prayer alert headlines from March and April, which are typically delivered with heroic photos of Trump:

A March 24 “prayer update” was simply a list of more than a dozen quotes from Trump and a few from Vice President Mike Pence and other administration officials with a suggestion to “Keep praying for our leaders as they make decisions for our nation!”

In January, before the pandemic became the focus of the nation’s attention, OVPM praised Trump’s moves to restrict access to abortion and urged people not to tire of praying against impeachment and for the president, “who has had to endure the distraction of impeachment as he has worked to develop policies and actions to benefit our nation and citizens.”

Before that, OVPM urged people to thank God that Trump was remaking the federal judiciary with his judicial nominees. OVPM cited a right-wing activist explaining that “it’s important for the president to flip the federal appeals courts so when cases that decide binding law for the circuit are heard by the full panel of active judges, Republicans are at an advantage.”

In January, OVPM glowingly reported on Trump’s State of the Union address by declaring:

Many Godly principles were put forth in President Trump’s State of the Union speech on Tuesday—his ongoing strong commitment to a pro-life position is one of them. Watch the State of the Union address here if you missed it, or just watch again, praying in agreement with Godly values that are part of his speech.

Looking toward the 2020 elections, OVMP is promoting “boiler rooms” it says “will mobilize people of prayer around political rallies, praying for our government to protect our constitutional freedom and seeking God together for revival in our nation.” The webpage promoting the boiler rooms urges, “Let’s seek the Presence of God for our nation, asking His purposes and plans to be fulfilled through leaders who align themselves with Godly principles.”

Blurring Lines: Personal, Political, Prophetic, and Profitable

Paula White Ministries benefits from the visibility her White House position gives her, and in turn, her ministry’s website promotes pro-Trump news stories. OVPM has also promoted White, as it did in a March 16 prayer alert recounting her appearance on SiriusXM Patriot’s “Breitbart News Sunday” and touting her book, “Something Greater: Finding Triumph Over Trials.” That alert noted that “Pastor Paula … advises the president on engaging with evangelicals, and makes the president’s case to evangelical voters to stick with him,” while reporting that White “noted how the Democrats’ treatment of the president, a former Democrat himself, is creating a more divided America.”

These intersecting interests have drawn the attention of good-government advocates like longtime watchdog and president of Democracy 21 Fred Wertheimer, who warned that White’s simultaneous engagement in official and unofficial activities “creates the appearance of using her public position for personal gain.”

White and Lamphere seem to be aware of the potential for OVPM’s line-blurring to present legal or ethical pitfalls.

Lamphere generally begins the monthly calls by asking reporters to hang up, though the presentations are streamed live on YouTube and Facebook. In March he said, “This call is a nonpartisan prayer call, a nonpartisan prayer group. And our purpose simply is to pray for our nation and pray for the events that are taking center stage in our nation here.” While the group does nominally pray for leaders of both political parties, its claim to be “nonpartisan” seems laughable and seems to no longer appear as part of the group’s description of itself on its website. On the March call, religious-right activist Philip Jauregui prayed that God would give conservatives a “triple crown”—control of the White House, Congress, and the judiciary.

Lamphere has been described in news stories as White’s chief of staff and someone who works with and for her. He said on OVPM’s National Day of Prayer webcast, “I serve at the pleasure of Pastor Paula White, senior adviser to the president on faith and oversees the White House Office of Faith and Opportunity Initiative.” Lamphere described himself on OVPM’s February prayer call as pastor for global outreach for Paula White Ministries and as White’s “right hand” in Washington, D.C.

On OVPM’s April call, Lamphere thanked White for being “our modern-day Esther in the White House.” He told listeners that White was appearing in her “unofficial capacity.” On March’s call, on which White did not appear, Lamphere welcomed listeners  on her behalf, but said, “Unfortunately, Pastor Paula will not be able to be with us here today and let me—her heart is to be here … Pastor Paula is what is known as an S.G. That’s a special government employee. And as a special government employee, it means she can only work a certain amount of days within the White House, and when she is working for the White House, she cannot take calls like this.”

It hardly seems that White’s apparent mixing of the personal, profitable, political, and prophetic is likely to get her in hot water with the boss. After all, the defiance of ethical norms is part of the Trump administration’s identity. As Wertheimer, the good-government watchdog, noted earlier this year, “If the president believes in using public office for private gain, who is he or anyone in this administration to hold people accountable for doing it? When it comes to proper conduct by executive branch officials, the Trump presidency is a lawless one.”

White’s importance to the White House political operation seems to have quieted evangelical criticism of her prosperity gospel theology, which many Christians believe is heretical. In fact, White’s supporters portray her as having been positioned by God to support Trump and to serve as a conduit for “divine wisdom” from God to Trump.

White herself hasn’t been shy about claiming insider access at a level even higher than the Oval Office. She claimed in February that she “literally went to the Throne Room of God” and had a “divine encounter” where God gave her a new mantle and anointing. Last summer, she said in a sermon, “I have every authority to declare the White House as holy ground because I was standing there and where I stand is holy.”

Frank Amedia, founder of the Trump-supporting “prophetic” network POTUS Shield, has warned Christians not to criticize White, saying she “has been anointed by the scepter of righteousness of God and appointed by the scepter of leadership by the president of the United States.” In December, Amedia declared a day of fasting and prayer on White’s behalf, an event that was promoted by OVPM.